TALLAHASSEE — After an initial review of the new emergency order from the Florida Department of Education, the Florida Education Association (FEA) is cautiously optimistic that the order offers our public schools a much-needed measure of reassurance for the new year. Florida’s schools remain underfunded, and Covid-19 continues to create terrible disruption, but the state’s support for students on-campus and off should remain stable this spring.
“The commissioner appears to have listened to the many educators, parents and superintendents calling out for stability for our students,” said FEA President Andrew Spar. “We hope the commissioner keeps listening. The state could do even more to help our students by suspending high-stakes standardized testing. That would allow more time for real learning, so that students and teachers can catch up from the disruption caused by Covid. If some tests must be administered, they should not be make-or-break for our already stressed students and public schools.”
Even before the pandemic, Florida’s public schools struggled with an overgrown accountability system that negatively impacts both students and schools, shortages of teachers and staff, overcrowded classrooms and long years of underfunding. Since Covid struck, expenses and needs have only increased. Just to deal with the pandemic, schools need reduced class sizes that allow for social distancing, proper protective equipment, a hand-washing station in every classroom, a registered nurse on every campus and greater access to mental health services for children and staff.
The coronavirus continues to cause dislocation and disruption in our communities and at our schools. Cases are on the rise nationwide and in Florida, with the state showing a sharp increase in cases among children 17 and younger.
Sustaining funding for public school districts now will help cover their costs in the short term. In the long run, Florida needs to do better. High quality, well-resourced public schools are crucial to our communities’ recovery from the pandemic, and absolutely essential to the future of this state and our students.
Besides ensuring short-term stability for students and schools, today’s order also extends the time granted to teachers working to earn a reading endorsement certification from the state Department of Education. “We appreciate that FDOE is giving teachers extra time to earn the endorsement,” FEA President Spar said. “Both teaching and testing schedules have been disrupted this year.”
The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with 150,000 members. FEA represents PreK-12 teachers, higher education faculty and graduate students, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.